Celebrate new life with simple fare

Of all events in the Jewish lifecycle, welcoming a tiny Jewish soul into the world is the most joyous. The event is filled with enthusiasm, anticipation and enormous awe.

With all the excitement and tension that accompanies this simcha, it’s more important than ever to keep the food simple. The celebration of a new life is so precious that the food becomes very secondary.

The brit millah ceremony for a male is usually held on the eighth day after birth, at home in the morning. For a girl, a baby naming is usually within the first few months of birth.

What would a festive Jewish brunch be without a lox and bagel platter from the deli. Supplement it with a delicious and refreshing fruit salad, and perhaps a tuna spread. A savory bread pudding is the impressive star of this buffet and can be prepared a day ahead. A do-ahead coffeecake and a mouth-watering platter of chocolate-dipped strawberries and cheese-stuffed fresh apricots are special desserts truly worthy of this special occasion.

Savory Mushroom Challah Pudding | Serves 8-10

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. assorted fresh mushrooms (such as crimini, button and stemmed shiitake), thinly sliced
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms, broken into pieces
2 Tbs. chopped fresh tarragon
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups whole milk
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
12 slices challah or white bread, crusts trimmed
3/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Spray 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish with nonstick spray. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fresh mushrooms and onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add dried porcini; sauté until mushrooms are brown, about 8 minutes. Mix in tarragon and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to medium bowl.

Whisk milk and eggs in large bowl to blend.

Arrange six bread slices over bottom of prepared dish. Top with mushroom mixture, half of Gruyère, and half of Parmesan cheese. Cover with remaining six bread slices. Drizzle egg mixture over; press gently to submerge bread. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle remaining Gruyère and Parmesan cheese over bread pudding. Bake uncovered until bread pudding puffs and top is golden brown, about 40 minutes.

Curried Chutney Tuna Spread | Makes 4 cups

3 7-oz. cans water-packed tuna, drained and flaked
1 small apple, diced
4 Tbs. mango chutney
1 tsp. curry powder, or to taste
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
4 sprigs fresh parsley
1 Tbs. celery seed (optional)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste
chopped parsley or cilantro for garnish
mini-bagel halves, toasted

In a food processor combine tuna, chutney, curry, lemon juice, parsley sprigs, celery seed and mayonnaise. Process until mixture forms a rough paste.

Taste for salt and pepper and put mixture into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with chopped parsley or cilantro. Serve with toasted mini-bagels.

Stuffed Apricots | Makes 24

12 ripe apricots, halved and seeds removed
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
2 Tbs. honey
pinch cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pistachios

Sprinkle apricot halves with lime juice.

In a blender or food processor combine cheese, honey and cinnamon until smooth. Fill apricot halves with cheese mixture. Sprinkle with pistachios.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].